I’m just going to lay it all right out there, friends. The last few weeks just about did me in. The end of the school year is a busy time in general, but adding an international move and the emotions of saying goodbye to my beloved friends, home and town makes it even more crazy.
We survived, but some days I wasn’t sure that we would. That may sound super dramatic, but it is the honest truth. The mile long to-do list, the organization of dog travel, people travel, household goods travel and all the paperwork that goes with each- Oye!
Throw into the mix school finals + events, last minute parties for the kids and their friends, and trying to organize as many dates with my friends as possible before they all scatter to the 4 winds when school lets out for the summer.
The emotional toll of saying all your goodbyes is harder to survive than the actual to do-list, in my opinion.
Honestly, I don’t know how one exits an expat assignment gracefully, and if I figure it out I will be sure to share- but for now I can say this.
Make sure to say goodbye.
Goodbyes are hard. Lump in my throat, stomach in knots, 10 tissues kind of hard. It would be easier to ignore it, feign illness or busyness- but I knew in my heart of hearts that I would regret it.
When raising a glass in Italy, you make sure to clink each persons glass individually as well as look them in the eye. I would say it is important to do the same when saying your farewells.
Make time for the people that you are closest to. Be fully present + look them in the eye. Say goodbye and tell them how much they mean to you.
Oh my word it’s hard. Especially when you are like me and cry at even the thought of leaving, let alone actually standing face to face with a dear friend and laying your heart on the line. And so I’ve spent the past several weeks in between packing and planning, having dinner-coffee-lunch dates with friends that have become our family.
I’ve moved around the US a fair amount in my life, but have never had quite this kind of emotional roller coaster. It’s a unique experience- moving on from expat life.
I want to share what we intentionally tried to do during the weeks leading up to moving out of our home + life here. There are a few things I would change if I could, (always always-more time with friends!) but I’m hoping these things will help our transition, even though they felt so difficult at the time. And I’m hoping these suggestions help someone out there reading as well…
Make a plan + Take your Time
Start planning early. You can’t wait until the last minute to say goodbye to everyone, it is just not humanly or emotionally possible! The last month of school is jam packed full of events, exams, packing and parties- so get your calendar out and write it down.
Make sure to make a date with your closest people so that time doesn’t run out. Schedule a coffee, lunch, or even a packing date- time to be together and laugh and cry with each other. Remember it’s hard on the friends staying too. They will have their own grief as they see another round of friends moving on.
Our goodbyes spread out over a few weeks. It’s exhausting, but at the same time I wouldn’t want it any other way because I enjoyed time with friends and it wasn’t completely a frantic mass goodbye that would have left us all in a little heap of snot + tears. We did it slowly and savored last meals together, chats and coffee dates- it worked for us.
Be present + Feel the feelings
With so much going on in your life, its so easy to be distracted and check off each goodbye like a list. Don’t do it! Try to pause that to-do list and be fully present with your friends. Look them in the eye. Tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Reminisce about how you met, or that horrifying-now funny adventure you had together. Don’t worry about sounding sappy or how much your mascara is running. Feel the Love…
Say goodbye to all the important bits
It is very likely that we will not return to Basiglio. I adore our adopted village, and have spent many days breathing a sigh of relief when I drove my car into our tiny town, headed towards home. For me, it was very important to say goodbye to every part of our life here.
I walked through town several times with camera in hand, capturing my favorite details and became a little teary eyed knowing how much I would miss our little village. I made a visit to my pharmacist Guido and thanked him for his kindness and for letting me practice my Italian with him. We also made sure to stop by our favorite restaurants in town and enjoyed 1 last delicious meal and saying goodbye and thanking them for feeding us so well, for embracing our family during this chapter of our lives.
Before we leave Milan the last time, we will visit some favorite spots and take even more photos of our beloved Duomo di Milano. <3
Embrace Grace (with your family and friends)
As you prepare to move and say goodbye, it’s a hard and confusing time. Everyone processes grief differently and each person in our family is still feeling all the feelings and never the same ones.
So our mantra has been- Always extend grace + be kind.
Taking a moment to comfort each other if we are sad. Celebrating with each other that we have had a wonderful ride and are heading home soon. And every point in-between. Change is hard on over-emotional stressed to the max, sleep deprived families.
Always grace, on repeat.
What I’ve learned so far…
Saying goodbye with your whole heart is hard and necessary.
Good luck to you if you are just entering or exiting this crazy beautiful expat life. I wish you joy + happiness in your adventures.
Darling Milano friends- I am so grateful to have shared this adventure with you. I feel greedy, like we didn’t have enough time together, I’m always wanting more! I will miss you more than you will know. Blessings on your summer and the year ahead and please please keep in touch.
– viva l’amore e amici. (long live love + friends)